It is a strange time for a pastoral transition. A few of my pastor friends have called the last several months in the life of the Church, Covidtide. And indeed, the pandemic has marked this season of church life. We have been kept from gathering and our services have moved online. Even as we plan to reconvene for corporate worship as we know, it will be different. For the moment, our bishop and conference has constricted our large gatherings to outdoor worship, with masks and social distancing and no singing. This will be quite different from the church you gathered in, way back in mid-March. And on my first couple of Sundays with you, we will be worshiping online again, and so you will meet me, but I will not have met many of you.
But Covidtide is not a season on the Church’s Calendar. When our cessation of worship began, we were midway through Lent. Then came Easter and Pentecost and now, the season we are in is called “Ordinary Time” or “the season after Pentecost.” I think both ways of marking time are instructive for us. After Pentecost is our Ordinary Time in the church.
When the disciples gathered on Pentecost it was with an expectancy and a hope for the coming of the Spirit, based on Jesus’ promise to them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NRSV). When the Spirit came on Pentecost and the church was born in Jerusalem, the church gathered daily, breaking bread in each other’s homes, sharing life together, and praising God (Acts 2:42-47). Pentecost inaugurated a golden age in the Jerusalem church. The community was living, vibrant, and growing! Then the church experienced resistance, persecution, and martyrdom. The church gathered became the church scattered. And when they did, the message of Jesus kingdom was carried from Jerusalem to all Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The fulfilment of the Spirit’s blessing did not come to full fruition until persecution had scattered the church, and they moved out.
We are in a similar situation today. We have scattered, not by persecution but by a pandemic, but in the process, we have begun to reimagine what church is and what it could be. Our metaphors of our life together have changed. We have been tempted at times to think of church as a building with vaulted ceilings and walls, and stained glass, but now our only way we can be church together, at least for a moment, is to be the church outside the walls as the Spirit of God—the wind of God that blows where it will—reveals to us new ways of caring for one another and sharing life. Transitions and shifts provide an opportunity for something new to grow
I am looking forward to meeting each of you and journeying alongside you as we seek to know God, transform lives, and serve others together!